Interview: Hyisu Han.
We caught up with the winner of the first ever Castel Asia-Oceania Cup, organised in Hong Kong in 2018.
Organised in collaboration with the Hong Kong Sommelier Association in November 2018, the competition’s objective was to shine a light on a new generation of sommeliers from a number of different countries in the Asia-Pacific region: South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Zealand, and China. After two days of rigorous competition, Hyisu Han from South Korea was crowned. Last month we spoke with her about her passion for wine, her life as a sommelière in South Korea, and the current state of the profession.
Hi Hyisu. Could you tell us a bit about your career up to now?
When I was 19, so 8 years ago now, I went to study French in the city of Tours for one year. I lived in Bordeaux for another year after that to study wine at Cafa formations. After those two years of study, I returned to Korea where I took up my current role at SPC Group. I’ve been working there now for the last 7 years.
Could you tell us a bit more about your current role?
OSPC Group exploite une très grande boulangerie qui s’appelle « Paris Baguette » et s’intéresse également au commerce du vin et à la restauration. Nous importons particulièrement beaucoup de vins français. Je fais toutes les cartes des vins du restaurant en tant que sommelière du SPC.
What are your memories of the Castel Asia-Oceania Cup in 2018? How did it feel to take home the trophy?
My participation was a bit of a rush! For a number of reasons, I didn’t have a great deal of tile to prepare. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to win the competition. Even two years later, I still remember the moment I learned that I had won!
As winner of the Castel Asia-Oceania Cup, you were given the opportunity to visit the Bordeaux region. What are your memories of your trip?
I would like first of all to thank the Castel family and in particular Sophie Castel. I had already visited a number of wine regions - almost every year - but this one was particularly special. I was delighted to be able to visit the different châteaux For example Château du Bousquet, Château Beychevelle, Château Les Carmes Haut Brion, Château Fleur Cardinale and many others. I was treated to detailed explanations of the winemaking process, and a number of in depth tastings, and many excellent lunches and dinners with Sophie. Fantastic food, great wines and great conversations about wine, as well as the relaxing stay at Château Malbec. I had a great time.
How important are international competitions for sommeliers today?
Preparing for international competitions requires a great deal of preparation, but the most important thing for sommeliers is for them to enjoy themselves, take advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as possible For sommeliers, the most important things are building relationships, information and knowledge. International competitions are a key part of this.
How would you define the role of the sommelier today?
In my opinion, the role of the sommelier is about three Cs: Correct understanding of wine. Communication with clients. And connecting the client with the wine.
In your opinion, how has the role of the sommelier changed over the course of the last 10 years?
Today’s consumers can access information about wine much more quickly and easily than before. In the last ten years, the amount of information available has increased enormously. This is true for information pricing, producers, and wines. To be honest, there are advantages and disadvantages to this. It certainly shows that more and more people are becoming interested in wine. For me, as a sommelier, overall I consider it to be a positive phenomenon.
Where does your passion for wine come from?
You never stop learning. I don’t think I’ll ever know everything there is to know about wine. Perhaps it is wine’s amazing diversity that makes me hungry to learn more and more. That’s probably where my passion comes from. However, the most important thing will always be to drink the right wine with the right people. That’s what I enjoy the most. I will always be happy as long as I’ve got a good bottle of wine!
What is your relationship like with Bordeaux wine. What are your favourite appellations?
I am still a beginner when it comes to Bordeaux wine. When I lived in Bordeaux, I only drank Bordeaux, but now I work with wines from all over the world. Today, when I drink Bordeaux, it takes me back to the time of my studies. As for my favourite appellations, that’s a more difficult question. Each appellation presents its own unique characteristics, and there is also a fair amount of variation depending on the producer.
Find Hyisu on Instagram at @sommeliere_hyisu